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Light receives prestigious residency membership to Institute for Advanced Study

Jen Light, associate professor in the School of Communication Department of Communication Studies, has been invited to join the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) as a member in the School of Social Science for 2011-12.

Light is the first School of Communication faculty member to receive this honor, joining an elite institution whose renowned affiliates include Albert Einstein, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and mathematician Kurt Gödel.

Light said she is excited to spend an academic year at the institute in Princeton, New Jersey, a requirement of membership.

“Opportunities to work full time on your own research are increasingly few and far between,” she said. “The idea of joining what looks to be a pretty intense but informal intellectual community is thrilling.”

Approximately 20 scholars from around the world — economists, anthropologists, historians and political theorists — are invited annually to the School of Social Science to commit to their research full time. They can solicit feedback from one another, bouncing ideas off colleagues.

“It will be a different kind of feedback on my work than I usually get,” Light said.

Light plans to spend the year writing on the historical and contemporary significance of the junior republic movement, 1895-1945, during which children with troubled backgrounds joined self-governing, mostly self-sufficient colonies for civic and character education.

“The book and article I am writing argue that the significance of the junior republic movement lay not only in its impact on children, but also in its capacity for analog simulation and sophisticated analysis of this simulation work,” Light wrote in her application to seek IAS membership. “The book expands historians’ understanding of the role of simulation technologies in American life before the invention of electronic computing. The companion article speaks to present-day educational technology designers and users seeking to engage youth with digital simulation tools.”

Light credits her 2010 School of Communication Innovation Grant awarded as essential to getting her research project off the ground. She will begin her year at the Institute for Advanced Study Sept. 1.